- Spectacular success found Bates Battaglia where and when he least expected it, on a lofted shot toward the opposition net at the end of another fruitless shift.
It was Game 7 of the first playoff round between the Toronto Marlies and the San Antonio Rampage and in the millisecond it took for Battaglia’s shot to slip between the legs of goalie Josh Tordjman, everything changed.
Public Address Announcer Jay Michaels was notifying the crowd at Ricoh Coliseum that the game had one minute left in regulation and the ebbs and flows of the things were carrying toward the Rampage.
They had outshot the Toronto Marlies 12-6, they had induced the Marlies to take two third period penalties. Tordjman looked absolutely
Battaglia circled high, near the opposition blue line and then let his shot go.
“I was hoping for either a tip or a rebound,” he said after the game. “It did neither and that’s fine by me.”
Score it Marlies 2, Rampage 1. The Marlies win the series four games to three and now face the Syracuse Crunch in Round 2. The opening contest will be played Friday at Ricoh beginning at 7:30.
At 32 years old, Battaglia is the oldest Marlie. He has played in the National League with Carolina, Colorado, Washington and the Maple Leafs. If he never spends another moment in the big time, he will have played 580 games and scored 80 goals and how many of us can say that?
And yet here he was, throwing his arms up in exultation, a winner again.
“Playoffs at any level are so many steps higher than regular season,” he said.
“It’s just so much more fun. Whether we’re up there or down here, you’re going to give it 100 per cent. It’s a fun time of year.
The experienced player buys a lottery ticket and shoots at the net absolutely because a young goalie might think he won’t.
“I saw him coming down the wing and I saw him pull up,” Tordjman said. “Then I kind of lost it. I didn’t expect him to throw it on the net from there. It just trickled through the five-hole.”
Marlies captain Ben Ondrus charged to the net just in time to engage a San Antonio defenceman.
“There might have been a guy behind me and it went through both of our legs,” said Ondrus. “I turned around to maybe find a rebound. The red light was on and everybody was going crazy.”
In the San Antonio dressing room, Tordjman sat slumped in a corner, half of his equipment still strapped to his spindly frame.
“Anytime you lose in the last minute in the playoffs or in overtime on a play like that, it’s very disappointing,” he said. “It’s definitely going to stay in my head for a while. We battled really hard.”
The game stayed scoreless until the second period when Kris Newbury deflected a shot past Tordjman on the power play.
The visitors tied things when spectacular Russian Enver Lisin ripped a shot past Marlies goalie Scott Clemmensen on the power play.
That set things up for Battaglia’s winner but the contest could have been lost several times in the third period but for the standout work of Clemmensen. The veteran goalie acknowledged the Marlies had been outshot in the third but also knew his team was capable of sneaking something ugly by Tordjman.
“It’s not indicators or trends of what’s going on in the game that matter,” he said. “It’s the scoreboard. We’re more of a hard-working team where we try to throw the puck at the net and go for rebounds. It doesn’t matter if they outshoot us 30-1. We just need to score on the one chance.”
And they did.